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AT&T and AST SpaceMobile Set to Launch Satellites for Remote Cell Coverage

ByHuey Yee Ong

May 19, 2024
AT&T and AST SpaceMobile Set to Launch Satellites for Remote Cell Coverage

AT&T and AST SpaceMobile Set to Launch Satellites for Remote Cell Coverage

AT&T is advancing its mobile services by partnering with AST SpaceMobile to launch satellites that will enable cell service even in the most remote areas. This strategic move will transform ordinary smartphones into satellite-capable devices, providing coverage in traditionally unreachable locations like deep national parks and secluded rural areas.

This collaboration, which began with a Memorandum of Understanding in 2018, has now evolved into a definitive commercial agreement set to commence with the deployment of five commercial satellites this summer.

Since 2018, AT&T has been collaborating with AST SpaceMobile to test satellite-based communication services, including two-way audio calls, texts, and video calls. This partnership has allowed the testing of these services using regular smartphones, a precursor to their upcoming broader service rollout. The definitive commercial agreement reached between AT&T and AST SpaceMobile marks a significant step towards the actual implementation of these services, aiming to eliminate the dependency on traditional cell towers.

The typical limitation for mobile phones is their need to be within proximity to cell towers for service. This restriction often leaves areas like forests and mountains without any cell coverage. The new satellite-to-phone service by AT&T plans to overcome this by using satellites as orbital cell towers, thereby ensuring connectivity across even the most isolated locations.

This summer’s scheduled rocket launch is critical as it will transport the first batch of five commercial AST satellites into space. These satellites are crucial for initiating AT&T’s new service and represent just the beginning of a planned larger constellation of satellites aimed at enhancing global connectivity.

However, details about the specific rollout date and the potential additional costs for this satellite-to-phone service remain undisclosed by AT&T. This development comes amid a competitive environment where AT&T had previously expressed concerns to the FCC regarding a similar technology being developed by T-Mobile in collaboration with SpaceX’s Starlink.

On January 2024, SpaceX successfully launched satellites capable of direct-to-cell service, and T-Mobile conducted successful tests of satellite-based texting, planning to offer this service to the public within the year.

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Featured Image courtesy of AT&T and AST SpaceMobile

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.

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